Exercising Free Speech a Federal Crime?

• House passes bill to curtail legitimate First Amendment criticism of politicians

By Pat Shannan

On Feb. 27, the House of Representatives overwhelmingly passed the Federal Restricted Buildings and Grounds Improvement Act of 2011. If Obama signs this legislation, it will officially make it a federal offense for Americans to protest the government in any part of the country so long as an elected official is close by.

Under current Washington, D.C. law, anyone who trespasses on White House grounds is charged with a misdemeanor for trying to get close to  the president without authorization. H.R. 347 amends federal statute 18 USC 1752 to cover these instances as well as protesters, demonstrators and activists at any political events and other outings across America.


Under the new bill, any building or grounds where the president is visiting—even for lunch or a brief meeting—will be covered under federal law. This will apply even if there has been no public notification. This means any American citizen—man, woman or child—can be charged with a federal offense for protesting on a street outside of an event hosting the president—even if that individual was not aware the president was in the area.

And the proposed law doesn’t stop there. It also extends to all election candidates and visiting foreign dignitaries who are protected by the Secret Service.

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As America’s new national jackbooted thugs, Secret Service agents will be authorized to arrest and jail anyone found to be in protest—whether the protest is peaceful or not.

“The bill expands current law to make it a crime to enter or remain in an area where an official is visiting even if the person does not know it’s illegal to be in that area and has no reason to suspect it’s illegal,” said Rep. Justin Amash (R-Mich.), who was one of three congressmen to vote against the unconstitutional bill. “Some government officials may need extraordinary protection to ensure their safety. But criminalizing legitimate First Amendment activity—even if that activity is annoying to government officials—violates our rights.”

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The planning of this First-Amendment-robbing legislation coincides with the summertime Democratic convention. And AFP has already reported that Chicago officials, including Mayor Rahm Emanuel, are doing all they can to clamp down on protests in advance of the NATO summit there in May.

So does this mean that someone wearing a Ron Paul t-shirt cannot attend a Rick Santorum rally? Will it “legalize” the billy-club brutality against political protesters at the national conventions this summer? The answer to both appears to be, “Yes.”

Pat Shannan is a contributing editor of American Free Press. He is also the author of several videos and books including One in a Million: An IRS Travesty, I Rode With Tupper and Everything They* Ever Told Me Was a Lie. All are available from FIRST AMENDMENT BOOKS. Call 1-888-699-6397 toll free to charge.